Tag Archives: Jesus

Little Things, Never to Forget

I want to memorize the length between the lower curve of your plump bun and the back of your knee.  It can’t be more than 3 1/2 inches and then another to your pudgy bare foot.  One little lovable chunk of you that will too soon be long and lean like your sister’s.  Your voice is elf-like, high pitched, sing-song, curious and amazed at most things you speak to these days.  Unless it’s a command to “ho-d you me” “cuddew me” or a sweet whispered “wove you mama.”  Then your voice is deep and a bit raspy, possibly a glimpse of you at 12 or 24.  Or it’s a scream that accompanies a temper tantrum, full of life, fierce for that one thing you are wanting to have or do with your little strong body that I can barely redirect anymore with any sort of ease.  You have more passion and persistence than I have yet to witness in a child and I thank God you are my 4th, 3rd to make it to age 2, because I have far more experience, patience and tolerance for this age of big frustrations for you.  I get you though, I see your heart and know how badly you want to live by it and I adore that about you.  I pray regularly for the ability to encourage your full fledged self and help you harness your wildness in ways that will serve you well in life.  I can be exasperated and at the end of my rope with you and in the very same moment look into your tear filled fierce full brown eyes and be so overwhelmed with love for this full of life child I get to call mine.  You’re 2 1/2- delightfully, frustratingly, preciously, lovingly 2 1/2 and I don’t ever want to forget any bit or piece of this time with you.

“Mama, I feel like I haven’t had much time with just you and me lately.  Will you read my Pippi Longstocking book with me?” came the invitation from my girl who reads long chapter books within a few hours, has completed the Laura Ingalls Wilder series a few times over now and would choose to cozy up with a book over kicking a ball outside with her little brother any day.  Feeling lucky you would ask, I left the chore of the moment, looked past the end of day messes to be tackled, and joined you on the couch where it was quiet, away from a little brother and sister who were upstairs getting ready for bed with Papa, a rare brief moment with just you.  I pulled a blanket over us and your head leaned into mine as I started to read where you left off on page 103.  When a sound or my trailing tired thoughts cause me to pause, you put a finger to the word I stopped on and I am tempted to ask if you want to be the one to continue.  But I can tell you are 3 again, in preschool when you were the last kid to want to leave the reading circle while your teacher read the story of the day.  You’re 5, in kindergarten refusing to try and learn to read because it’s far more enjoyable to listen to the story than struggle to sound out syllables.  Now you’re 8 and it has come so fast, consuming more literature on your own than we ever have together in our sacred nightly ritual of bedtime stories before prayers and cuddles.  There is so much within your mind and world that I am not privy to any longer and I know that will only increase, naturally, as it should, but still I feel a bit left out not knowing so much of your thoughts and stories no matter how much I try to be intentional and ask.  So I am feeling nothing less than lucky to be invited into your most favorite past time, a world nearly as magical as this moment with you.

You’re 6 my son, and growing so quickly that your naturally athletic, amazingly coordinated body is a bit clumsier than usual.  You bump into corners and misjudge stairs and your tears are the same as when you were 4, so sad and so hurt.  I go to comfort you, hold you awkwardly on my 8 months pregnant belly and kiss your hurt places.  How much longer will I get to do that and it will help?  I appeal to your growing intellect as well with empathic words about your body changing and therefore you naturally get awkward for a while.  I am dealing with that too, I say smiling with my big belly, it’s not easy at first when our bodies grow but then we get used to them again.  You smile back at me and run off again full speed.  Later you take a break from your full-of-energy play and join me in the kitchen on a stool next to the counter where I am doing dishes.

“Mama, is it hard work being a mama by yourself when you have a baby in your belly?”  This is the season when your papa works long days, or is gone away for weeks at a time and you are ever the perceptive one. I have been tired, but conscientious about taking time for fun and for rest and building a rhythm that honors all of our growing bodies.

“Sometimes it is, but it is my favorite work I get to do,” I respond emphatically. I put down the dish I am scrubbing and turn to you perched on the barstool across the counter from me “Why do you ask?” I say, fearing I may have made you feel like a burden in some way.

You look out the window, and off into your mind say, “I am just thinking about the kind of dad I want to be someday.”   After a few moments you turn back to me “like making breakfasts like papa does when he’s home and you need some extra sleep.  I want to do things like that.”

Really, at six you’re thinking about this?  My perceptive, empathic child.

I get a big hug from you around my big belly, and a knowing look of love and gratitude for the baby brother you’ve been longing for all these years too, and off you go again outside to your adventures.

You would be 3 1/2 my sweet boy.  I have no pictures of these days and years I would have had with you.  No memories to try to cherish and hold onto.  Just 9 months in my belly and that one day, when you lay peaceful and breathless in my arms, when I could hardly breath.  I would give anything to have you now, even to have that one day when I got to hold and memorize you, terrible and exquisite as that day was.  My heart still aches beyond measure to know you my love.

Who would you be now?  Quiet and kind-hearted as your big sister?  Energetic and empathic as your big brother?  Wild and delightful as your little sister?  I can only daydream of who you would be, knowing full well you’d be something all your own entirely.  Oh and that hurts, so deeply, to not know and to wonder.  To have conceived and formed and grown you to fullness, to empty my womb when emptying is meant to bring life, only to tell you goodbye, still, always, leaves me hurting and longing.

 

My love is so big and full for you, even as I grasp to remember the details of you, details that are nothing to the joy it would be to hold you breathing in my arms, run and play a game of chase with you, read stories that delight your mind and talk with you about who you dream to become.  Our family is big and growing, but always incomplete without you.  I yearn for heaven to know you.

Kiss my son for me dear Jesus, play and run and talk and be with him, delight in him and cherish him, and please tell him he is loved beyond measure, each and every day until I am able to say it with you.

Thank you, for each of them my Lord.


Sacraments

Over the last year I have had the privilege of serving communion alongside my pastor husband.  Each time I do I am overwhelmed and grateful for the experience.  To give you a bit of background that doesn’t tell the whole story, I can rarely receive communion without tears streaming down my face.  I mean, not just a little teary-eyed, but streaming.  God’s grace has always cut to the core of my being that finds it hard to believe I can be so well loved.  I always feel a bit sorry for the servers, they must think something is really wrong with me.  I fear they might usher me aside to a private triage prayer room for me to be able to pull it together.  I want to whisper, “I’m okay, don’t worry, just a little overwhelmed by God’s love right now, I will be fine.” But I know I wouldn’t be able to choke out the words.

I can’t quite explain all of what is going on for me in those moments.  A sense of absolute brokenness – awareness of my own depravity, loss, heartache and imperfection – swirls with awareness of love so profound – pure, undeserved, all-encompassing – that I can hardly bear it.  To receive this physical reminder of God’s love and provision is always profound and I have no doubt of God’s divine presence when receiving the sacraments.

But to serve is another thing altogether.  If I already struggle with the question of “who am I to receive such gifts of grace?” all the more I wonder, “who am I to present them?”  To speak “this is His body, broken for you” or “this is His blood, poured our for you” and hear my husband speak the counter promise beside me is such an honor.  Words more weighty than my wedding vows, that also clenched my throat tight as I spoke them with as much conviction as I could muster through tears of overwhelming gratitude.  Looking each person in the eye, I do my best to speak the weight of these words into each soul.

But God forbid I know a bit of their story, or see heartache or gratitude in their eyes, because then the clenched throat comes and my eyes fill.  It happened today when a fellow mom of young ones dipped her bread in the cup I held strong for her, then her husband who has also known a lifetime of heartache, a new person to our church I’d bonded with only the week before, my long time mentor mom from MOPS who was there with me in during the loss of my baby boy, then her husband who fed everyone at the funeral making sure my plate was full when I was famished.  The newly married couple who are navigating loss and change, and the ones celebrating a decade but fighting to feel close.  The mother of a healthy 2nd trimester baby who’d had too many early miscarriages to have still had hope, and the beautiful single soul who longs to find their life partner.  And the stories in the hearts of the faces that tell me there’s so much more than the smile they return to me.  Who am I, so broken, to bear witness to this sacred moment of receiving of God’s gift of sustenance?

That God would love us so much.

May you have strength for your journey knowing the body broken and the blood poured out for you.


Oh Holy Night!

I am so excited for our Candlelight Christmas Eve Service tonight.  Gathering with family and friends, worshipping the culmination of our waiting, hearing my 7 year old daughter proclaim the gospel, listening to my husband Scott preach his God breathed words of wisdom and hope, cookies, conversations and hugs afterwards – I can just feel the glow of it all and I am giddy as a child on Christmas Eve!

There is so much to this sweet season that can distract us from all that is so very good.  For this day, in spite and maybe because of all the inevitable noise, chaos and clutter, I am feeling so grateful for the mess of it all and the chance to glorify a Baby who has given us everything.

My heart goes to a stable where a young mom and a first time dad wait and work under stars shining bright to birth a baby who will save the world. I think of each of my children’s births, how I have labored through the night with hopeful expectation.  Body full of pain and a heart full of hope that they would breath life into their lungs when I finally got to hold them in my arms, even when I knew deep down one would not. I still hoped, until they came.  God has never taken that hope from me and it is how he has sustained me.  Even when the breath of life was gone, I have never lost hope that all would be well.

I pray this season you may have hope, and love and joy and peace and comfort too.  All those things we write and receive on all those Christmas cards.  Read them, know them, feel them.  We are loved and we have reason to rejoice.

Merry Christmas!

Here, again is my favorite hymn of the season 06 – O Holy Night, listen loud, sing it louder.
I posted this last year just after Christmas…

A Thrill of Hope in a Weary World

Oh Holy Night speaks of the dual nature of hope and suffering in life like no other Christmas carol.  It speaks to my heart and gives me reason to praise.  As I seek to sing in a season of remembrance and hope, the lyrics acknowledge I am often pining and weary and hurting.  It says He knows this.  He knows our need.  He knows us! And in knowing Him, our soul finds worth, even in the midst – and maybe especially – when we have trials.  We are loved, valued, treasured – of worth.  I will overcome my suffering, because He will overcome it – all oppression shall cease.  At the top of my lungs, in a pitch I can barely reach, I sing my heart out…
.
.
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim

Night Waking

I hear a cough, a sputter, another cough, then a rustling of blankets and a froggy voice calls.

“Mama, mama…”

In the dark I come to you, turn the bathroom light on around the corner from your room, to light my path.  Outstretched arms greet me from your seated slumber.  Eyes squint from the dim light entering your dark chamber.

I scoop your half awake body up into mine and, as always, we fit.  Your arms and legs wrap around me where they always go.  My arms slips beneath your padded bum, the other around your ribcage to squeeze you tight. Your head finds my shoulder and burrows in.

Papa peaks in.

“Grab the humidifier” I whisper, and smile that “isn’t she precious?” smile we share, to let him know you’re okay.

While he goes, the armchair calls for a moments’ comfort, you and for me.  In one instinctual, but quite clever rotation I have you vertical across my body, yours stays slack as you melt easily into our new position.  Eyes open briefly to make sure of mine and then close quickly again.

Your length is twice the width of me now, head resting on one arm of the chair, feet on the other.  The faint light makes only your toes glow.  At least they are still so little.  Our bellies breath together.  You grab my ears, I stroke your hair and lean in for a kiss to your forehead, your cheek, and about 14 more soft sweet places on your face.

Your hair smells of honey and flowers from your evening bath and your skin smells like you – like your blankets, and clothes, and your room does when I first open the door to greet you after a sleep.

God, if I could capture the scent…please never take her from me.

We sit and rock until your breathing grows loud, long, a snore even, from that lingering congestion that called me to you.  I’ll take it.  These interruptions of the sleep I claim to be of such value, for health and well being and sanity.  Really it is this that gives my life any well being at all.

In comforting I receive.

Peace. Meaning. Purpose. Gratitude. Grace. God. Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, all here with us in the dark of this nights’ interruption that reveals the course of my soul.

Thank you dear Jesus.

I love you dear child.


Worth

I have long been in dedicated pursuit of supporting the absolute and inherent value of all people, and therefore against any belief, system, person or group that might rob, shame or harm anyone in their pursuit of life. Unfortunately, it is the people I dearly love and call my own who have caused some most ravaging damage and have ultimately stunted the potential of women to seek to live out their call to serve God.

I have spent most of my adult years in ministry, one of those was in an official pastoral role at a church, the rest in outreach ministries where I was treated with love as valuable human being. In that one year I gained more insight than I ever hope to see in a lifetime into the misinterpretation of scripture that fosters prejudice, discrimination, shaming, outright abuse and subtle most aggravating mistreatment of women. Really it happened in one specific moment, in a gathering of equals from among the greater community in my same position, all men incidentally, with whom I so naively thought might treat me as one-and-the-same in pursuit of our common goal of ministering to others. I was not so inconspicuously “put in my place,” made to feel small, shamed, as if I had somehow sinned against the God I so dearly loved in wanting so purely to communicate His love for others. It was a moment you may have missed if you were sitting at that table with me and my cohorts, a nearly slight of hand trick that left me confused in the moment, stunned a bit at the nonsense of it all and not until the appropriate response time had passed did I feel the blow to my gut, my soul. I wanted to cry and scream and yell and throw a big fit and say “you are wrong and you are bad for doing what you did” but that would have been too emotional of me, so instead I did was I was told to do. I was speechless, quiet.  This is called a double-bind, an impossible scenario where any course of action will make the situation worse.  It was once believed that a double bind is what caused schizophrenia, it is so crazy-making.  I was left feeling small and ashamed against my own better judgment, am I somehow bad for wanting to serve God in the ways He has given me to serve?

I hope to God my daughters never, ever have to wonder the same. Because you see, if we are somehow bad in God’s eyes for doing His most fundamental work, how can we ever seek to live fully into any other call that is placed upon our hearts that might have any impact in this world where men also live? Is our highest call truly to be subservient rather than wholehearted servants of God?

It still brings a lump to my throat and makes me want to scream to remember that day. And the moment was so small, nothing, so little compared to what so many other women have faced and have been stunted by, not to mention so many others in the world who still face a myriad of injustices. But it hurt, and it scarred me, and it changed me. You may as well cut off my legs if you are to tell me I cannot serve my God in a ministry role. I will be rendered nearly as handicapped if not more. And yet, I still walk with a subtle limp that would take a caring and insightful eye to see, fearful of condemnation, scared to cause conflict, because you see I do not want my life to be about conflict, but reconciliation.  My single greatest calling in this season of life is to encourage relational wholeness that might reflect and allow people to know the love of the One who created them. I dare not admit to be the “f” word, as I do not want to be a ranting anything. I prefer to describe myself as egalitarian, as it is all people I care to value. Nor do I want to open myself up to be shamefully put in my place by the people I call my family. It is hard to stay forever quiet though and try so hard to let my actions only speak to what I believe, and there are current issues I may speak to when I have enough courage, maybe, but for now I just want to share what others have said, who inspired me to write this, and to say thank you to the people at Fuller Seminary who with full reverence and intelligent exegesis of scripture, have long taught all people to wholeheartedly live out what God has created them to do, from pulpit, or pew.

Even more though, I am grateful and amazed that our creative God could so beautifully interweave the truth of his love for all people within words written long before it was anywhere near socially acceptable to be speaking of women as teachers, ministers, prophets, apostles, equals, let alone leaders in any form or fashion. That to me is what is so astounding. If any scripture could be seen in glowing awe of the truth it reveals, it is those that so clearly go against culture and yet remain as if God himself inspired those words and not man.

And I believe He did.

Here are two short articles of inspiration, a sample of what I learned at Fuller after that awful day that gave me hope and conviction for the many times since I have seen or experienced this unfortunate injustice.

Scot McKnight Speaks on Women in Ministry

Women in Ministry: Consistency and Balance

My senior year at Whitworth University I had the honor of traveling across the United States for a month studying prejudice and discrimination, with fellow students and Dr. James Waller .  One of the lessons that most stands out to me is more poetically said by the singer-songwriter Jewel who wrote the lyric “Where there’s a man who has no voice, there I shall go singing.” This resonates with my soul as I know it those who are not directly impacted by injustice can often have a more powerful voice on behalf of those who are. I believe it is my purpose to speak on behalf of those who aren’t heard where I might impact positive change. Those too, are other blog posts to be written. For now, I want to say thank you to these men who give voice on behalf of women who’s voices are not always heard, especially to the late Dr. David M. Scholer, (you can read about him by clicking on his name) my professor of “Women the Church and The Bible” at Fuller Theological Seminary. He did a good work with his life.


Born to Bless – Part I


We have celebrated a handful of birthdays recently of family and friends. My husband and I were born a year and a day apart. The year “birth-aversary” of our church (which in many ways was not so different than having a child) happened to fall on my husband’s birthday and my children just celebrated their half-birthdays.

Birthdays are a big deal in our house. We like to throw parties, make things festive, prepare good foods to share, and have a reason to celebrate the people we love so much. Everyone gets into it as we all buzz around preparing for family and friends and what always proves to be a joyful few hours out of our ordinary lives. I consider our celebrations a spiritual discipline (after reading Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline a favorite book of all time, that in the end encourages us to find reasons to celebrate as the bible does), an exercise joy when so much of life and spiritual pursuits can be so serious. The kids love to hang streamers, make the nearly famous fruit skewers that go in the flower urn to look like fireworks, and are usually busy preparing hand made presents for all the guests of their own design.

My husband and I especially love to host and as each one is scurrying to put finishing touches on things we laugh and say “I am glad I married you because I am sure all this craziness would drive many people nuts.” And afterwards, as we do the work all over again to clean up, sweeping the floors, gathering garbage, passing dishes along to be dried in the dimly lit kitchen of the now-silent house, we relish all the highlights,

“wasn’t that fun?”
“who did you get a chance to talk to?”
“wasn’t it great to see so and so?”
“how are they doing?”
“oh and weren’t all the kids having such a great time?”
“did you see this child do this, and that child do that?”

and we go to bed happy, full, blessed.

One way we show our love at birthday time is gifts. I love to give gifts, I love to get gifts. There are just a handfull of people in my life with whom I still exchange gifts and it is just a fun little love language that I speak and understand. My kids of course love gifts too (what child doesn’t) and I have to say I don’t mind a reason to indulge them on these special days of the year.

This is all well and good, and yet, there is a piece of me that struggles with the idea of gifts, doesn’t want to be materialistic or wasteful, and wonders if we really are ever doing enough to help the world with what we have been given? As faithful as we have always been in giving more than our 10% to our church and a variety of other ministry organizations, give of our time to ministries ourselves and for missions, that scene in Schindler’s List when Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is realizing he could have given his watch, his coat, his every possession to save one more life always pierces me.

Will I get to the end of my life, my cause, God’s cause for my life and regret what I held back from those in need in order to gift my already blessed family and friends? I wonder. Jesus also blessed the woman who poured expensive oil on his feet. Though others saw it as a waste he told them her gift was good and timely. I hope the gifts I give to the blessed with discernment and love in my heart is seen as good in His eyes.

To counterbalance the me-focused gift wish list of birthdays (that I recognize I fully encourage by enjoying the giving), I had an epiphany for half-birthdays. We also want our kids to be generous and giving and thoughtful of the needs of others (so far they really are – I think God hardwires us that way, and it is our job as parents to encourage it). Last year we started this new tradition with my then 4 and 6 year olds on their half birthdays. On this day we would celebrate them with affirmation and favorite foods, but no gifts (so don’t ask). Instead this would be their day to gift the world. The kids’ earn allowance money and give some to the church, we participate as a family in saving up for special campaigns, regularly donate our time and money to causes we feel will honor God in a way our kids know about, but I wanted to instill in them the value that they can be mindful of what God places on their hearts and respond in a way that makes the world a better place. They get to decide what they think God would want them to, what matters to them and then we as a family help them carry it out.

Last year my 4 year old son wanted to make a treat for the hardworking staff at our seasonal business. My 6 year old daughter wanted to donate her gently used things to people in need. This year it was cupcakes for the summer staff (made from scratch with strawberries we’d picked) and granola bars in our car to give to homeless or hungry people we see on the streets. The kids come up with the vision and make all the decisions about how to carry it out. They always ask what the signs say that people hold on the streets and they want to do something to help, so we went to Costco and they picked out the biggest package of granola bars they could find so our family has something to give. We end the day with a favorite dinner and one by one we go around the table and tell the half-birthday person what we love about them. Much as I love giving gifts and having parties, half-birthdays rival the real deal for making some pretty meaningful memories.

Every year we will do this and my hope as they continue to grow in wisdom and maturity that their sense of vision for what God places on their hearts to help a hurting and broken world will be carried out with passion and purpose throughout the year – that they will know not only that they are loved and treasured by God and in their family, but that they are able to make the world a better place. That is better than any gift I can ever give them that would bring any meaning to their lives.

I have to mention a children’s book that speaks to this idea. Books are just a great way to encourage values as well. A narrative often goes a lot further than any explanation. Miss Rumphias by Barbara Cooney is a great book for young kids that tells about this idea of being intentional about discovering your gift for making the world a better place.

If you have creative ways of instilling values in your children I’d love to hear them!


Keeping Vigil

I am awake much too late, and not haphazardly. After a long weekend of late night wedding celebrations and a long play-filled visit with dear friends from childhood, I was more than ready for an early night’s rest. But alas, my husband is on a journey north, a long journey, after a long weekend for him too, and I am prone to keep vigil until he arrives safely at his destination. I will not sleep soundly until he does. God bless me when I have teenagers!

My husband Scott gave an inspiring homily at the wedding of JIm and Mary Anne Frank about the work of a relationship. Citing wisdom from the New Testament and referencing the tides he bases life around when fishing, he gave a charge to all in relationships to serve one another wholeheartedly and be ready for the changes, and there will be goodness. He danced into the night with a grateful wife and 3 giddy children. It is a rare treat to get to be at a wedding together as the salmon season in Canada usually takes precedence to everything summer. But now he is a pastor, and his work divides his time, forcing a bit of normal summer life upon him when he is home overseeing ministry rather than the 18 hour days a seasonal resort requires of him. But, he must to return north.

His long journey began at 4:00 a.m this morning in Spokane so that he would be able to take guests fishing at 4:00 a.m. the following morning in northern British Columbia. He caught a flight to Seattle in time to pastor and preach at our satellite campus church, Bethany North. After the final chair had been stacked and the last storage trailer had been parked, he headed north toward the Canadian border for the beginning of a 10 hour trip. Meeting an overbooked ferry early in the day added a 2 1/2 hour wait to his journey and negated his chances of catching the last possible ferry to Malcolm Island, his final destination. McGyver-style, he figured it all out and had a boat delivered to the main Island, so he could arrive at his final destination in time.

As I nestle my children to bed, gather up my own good book to read and snuggle myself in at a very reasonable hour, I find I am wide awake waiting and can’t focus on my reading. His cell phone coverage is spotty in the more desolate parts as he drives the length of Vancouver Island so when he last could call I asked him to text when he arrived at the boat and then again when he had made it across. I have seen what can be in the water during the day. I know every last person at his destination will be sound asleep. The night crossing has me anxious, as does his late night drive after long full, albeit fun, days. I will keep vigil for him.

11:26 p.m. the first text comes in: “Port McNeill. Beautiful night for a boat ride”

I have been waiting and praying, for his safe arrival. He must be exhausted. I wish I could give him the gift of sleep he so often offers me when he’s up at fisherman’s hours in the off-season months to care for our early risers. I would drive the car or the boat late into the night while he slept, if only I could be journeying with him. But I am now hundreds of miles away and my only point of common reference is the dark starry sky out my window. I pray it will be bright for him.

My favorite lullaby to my children is my favorite for the words,

“Sleep my child
and peace attend thee,
all through the night.
Guardian angels God will send thee
all through the night.
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and vale in slumber steeping,
I my loving vigil keeping,
all through the night.”

That is what I do, keep vigil at night. I hear every sound, every cry, every pitter pat of tiny feet, every questionable bump in the night inside or outside. I am alert, even when I am sound asleep, I will awake and take on the night. I will do everything I can to nurture and protect my family, every hour of the day. I would have done well as a Shepherd and honored to be in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But the reality, is I can only do so much. Really, I can’t do much at all when I consider what truly might take my child’s breath or put us in danger. The real comfort of this lullaby comes not in resonating with my loving vigil, but the prayer of the beginning: Peace attend thee, my child, God will send Guardian Angels (Thanks be to God). I only keep watch, it is He who will protect thee. (Please and Amen).

I swoop into my children’s rooms each night just before I go to bed to hold my vigil one last time before I seek my own sleep. When my husband is away, I am all the more vigilant. Tonight though, it is his journey away from us that keeps me waiting and watching for his safe arrival. I realize how powerless I am from afar to protect him, just how powerless I will be as my children grow older, gain more freedoms and eventually depart from my home. But still I will keep my vigil, still I will pray. My only strength is His, that He provides guardian angels, that He keeps watch.

12:02 “Home. Bed. Goodnight.”

12:03 “Oh good, I love you!”

“Sleep my child and peace attend thee,” He whispers to me.


Great With Child a book review

Resolution is in sight! As I transfer all my files from one computer to another and onto an external hard drive for safekeeping until I get my pc wiped and re programmed (today is my appointment!) I am coming across things I have written in the past and thought this was a fun piece to share. Great With Child is easily my favorite book of all time. And, THIS was actually my first publication, it was for our MOPS newsletter a few years back. I hope you enjoy…

I have a bit of an obsession with books, not that I find much time to read them these days, but even so, I yearn to consume the written word with an insatiable hunger for information and inspiration. Books on parenting, devotionals, a good novel or two, professional resources and plenty of abc’s and 123’s are strewn across my headboard, jammed into shelves in every room, packed into my office and sometimes placed strategically near the toilet (where it seems I get my most consistent reading in these days). Of all these books that serve one purpose or another in my life, there is one I go to like a latte after another night of broken sleep and savor like good chocolate after a season of lent. Great with Child: Reflections on Faith, Fullness and Becoming a Mother is a favorite manuscript in my library. My mind and soul yearn for the words on these pages as a most genuine reflection of the range of emotion I feel at this great juncture.
Debra Rienstra, an English professor from Calvin College, writes with eloquence, humor, candor and faith about all topics feminine. We get to ride the river of life with her from the deep yearning for motherhood, to the grumpy perfectionism that rises in us as we seek to “nest” just-so; laughter over various bodily fluids excreted by mother and child soon after birth, to reverence over our ability to join the Creator in creation, shedding blood to have children as Jesus shed His blood for us. Rienstra shares the story, that feels like pieces of every woman’s story, of her own struggle toward conception, the sacred walk of pregnancy, questions of identity in work and relationships, and the ultimate bliss, chaos and meaning that comes with a child.
Drawing on a myriad of writings both secular and sacred, she is single-handedly the best book-club resource for mothers who would like to stay connected to something intellectual without sacrificing these fleeting days of splashy bath times, wide-eyed-wonder and high pitched “I wove yous.” And the best part is the book can, and should be read a little at a time. One paragraph, one sentence even, begs to be tasted and savored. Akin to a dear friend speaking words of truth so piercing that tears well-up at being thus well known, Great with Child illuminates the sacredness of womanhood mixed with motherhood as a beautiful tapestry, breathtaking overall and precious in detail.
Daunting to find one quote that might exemplify the book, Rienstra’s own response to how she did it sums well. One asks “You wrote this book during your third pregnancy and then during the baby’s first year? Are you crazy? I haven’t been able to write up a decent grocery list since my first baby was born!” Amen sister. Riesntra’s responds “I am not exactly sure…I had to do it…Giving life to a child seemed to irradiate my thoughts about everything else – the body, womanhood, culture, God-everything. I wanted to read something that treated motherhood in the fullness of its dimensions, social, and personal, body, mind, and soul.” And to her newborn son, and thus vicariously to us all “For you is the mystery waiting, for you it was hidden for ages in God who created all things. Be rooted and grounded in love. Comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth. Know those things that surpass all knowledge. Be filled to the measure, my little one, with the fullness of God.” And again, I say, amen.


Blood Drips Down

There is a scene in my longtime favorite movie She’s Having a Baby where hopeful parents Jake (Kevin Bacon) and Kristy (Elizabeth McGovern) are in the hospital, about to have their first baby when suddenly things start going wrong. Jake is forced out of the delivery room as his wife lies writhing in pain screaming “I’ve got to get it out! I’ve got to get it out!” and the doctor is urgently telling her to stop pushing. They give her a shot of medication, she passes out, oxygen mask goes on, sheets are ripped off of her large pregnant belly and the tray of surgical instruments rolls in. Flash to Bacon standing alone in the hospital hallway with shock, anger and fear on his face. Piano music starts and a high pitched whispery voice of Kate Bush begins,

“Ah ha ah ahhh, oooh” in an etherial, lulling tone that forces stillness upon this imminently altering moment in their lives.

Flashbacks of their life together, of the good and the funny and the tender and sweet moments, roll in his mind.

“Pray God you can cope” the voice sings

A tear begins to fall from his face and when it lands on the ground it is a drop of blood next to his wife’s hospital bed.

That drop of blood, color of life, reference of death, leaves us hanging, scared, hopeful, preparing for the worst and praying for the best.

All of life, we do this.

Blood started to come yesterday evening, and all of these emotions settled into the numbness that allows me to function, to seem to forget what flows fiercely beneath the surface, in the face of the tragic. Will it be well?

I was going to text my dearest friends for prayer, but didn’t want to be alarmist, didn’t want to allow fear to take hold. Should I have waited to tell them the good news until the “safe” twelfth week? I have lived and known even week 41 not to be safe. We waited with my first pregnancy, had a miscarriage at 8 weeks and spent the next year hoping month after month after lonely, scary, isolating month this would be the one when we would share the good news with the bad, and confess to the pain we had endured alone. Too many months passed, the narrative when finally unfolded felt hollow, a tin bucket that echoed with a pang of the details that had once been full of tears. We told at a moment’s notice with our next, my graduation day from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, when family and dear friends would be gathering to celebrate just days before we were to move away to Seattle. We relished the joy shared with our community of loved ones and our hearts broke to leave them. Little did they know how hard earned this joy was for us, the many many months of trying and the harsh blood that kept saying no each month.

Do we wait to invite those most dear, the world around us, into our joy that might become pain? Who are we seeking to protect? Of course I’d rather not tell the bad news after the good. But I think I would rather tell the bad news than have that hollow lonely experience ever again. We waited the full twelve weeks to tell the kids and the masses of our second son, whom we lost full term, and were ever so careful to wait to share the news of the baby who followed, our baby Bird now 16 months. This newest baby was a miracle of all miracles, meant to be from the amazing details of the conception and timing. God was in this and that meant fruition right?

“I’ve often bled early in my pregnancies, when the baby implants,” I told myself and my husband, who knows my history nearly as intimately as I, attempting to reassure us.

This wasn’t early enough though and I knew it. I was too far along. I knew it was too late. So I said my own prayers and went to bed, hoping for the best by morning, when my first OB appointment was already scheduled, first thing. I would have answers.

Blood was still coming by morning. My huge belly, that popped out so quickly there was no way of even trying to hide my pregnancy from my children, and therefore the world, was already gone. Noticing my flat profile in the mirror while in the shower, I tried pushing it out, pulling on my skin with my hands, forcing it to look full again and trying to convince myself it was. But I knew. I had barely eaten dinner the night before, made it through the night without having to use the bathroom. Symptoms and signs were fading, and I knew.

I texted some friends who pray.

But I wouldn’t believe until I was in the ultrasound room, that horrible, awful ultrasound room where the black cavity of my baby Fisher’s chest proved his heart was no longer beating. I couldn’t wait to get to that room, and I almost passed out when I went in. Oh, yes, this terrible place of truth, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, where I hoped that a serpent had not taken my baby but a God who loves us would have breathed life into her.

I have known the image of that 8 week bean with the pin top fluttering heart beat 5 times now, I knew what I was looking for. The search and search and attempts to find something within the black void of a small yolk sac were unnecessary. She was gone, there wasn’t even a lifeless form of white, just that damn circle of darkness and a bit of a cloud of blood escaping from the top.

“I am so sorry,” my OB looked at me, concerned for me.

I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I knew,” unable to cry just yet.

She had been so happy to see us that morning, we were all so excited to bury that hard story we’d drudged our way through and add one more for the good guys to the score board.

“This isn’t anything you did” she reassured.

“We’ve been moving, life has been full,” I confessed.

This is my life. Do I sit reclined on a one armed settee like a Victorian maiden with a plate of meats and grapes by my side, my children playing silently in white batiste dresses at my feet while I rest and nap all day? No. I live a normal life. I do things. I get up and care for my children and do a bit of outside work and volunteer where I can and am needed, I help with the recent extra needs of our family’s move, but did no heavy lifting and went to bed early and avoided deli meats and unpasteurized cheeses and tuna and alcohol and too much caffeine. I followed all the rules, I took care of my baby, followed the cues of my body, had a few busy days with pressing deadlines to be sure, but didn’t feel tension or stress, stayed physically, intentionally calm and reminded myself “it will be what it will be and there is nothing more I can do” when I was too tired to continue as I would pre-pregnancy. There was no task more important than the creation of this life.

I made all my confessions to Dr. B, I have been there before, and she shook her head at me until she could get a word in to say “No, there was something wrong that didn’t allow this baby to grow.”

She measured six weeks, I was undoubtedly eight, knowing my exact day of conception which absolutely miraculously and ironically was the exact day of conception of my son Fisher from three years before. I was amazed my body would line up in such a way and it felt like a detail of redemption. Two weeks ago my life was less full than the last. That made me feel better too.

Dr. B explained what to expect, knowing I’d been here before any of my babies were born, gave me some options and set me up for a follow up appointment at the latest possible time at the end of the week in case there might be something to hope for.

The blood kept coming, bright and heavy, and hope dissipated. Once we walked through the glass door of the waiting room that held bellies full of anticipation I finally felt my stoic strength release and the tears surged and carried me down the hall, into the elevator, through the lobby and out the automatic glass doors. When the free and fresh air and the loudness of the city surrounded us, I could speak and I sobbed out, “I was so excited. I wanted this baby so much.”

My husband’s arm sheltered me tight and he said “me too,” tears releasing for him too.

“Can I buy you lunch?” I knew the abundance of work he had put off putting in extra hours on our move so that I wouldn’t have to, I knew it was a sacrifice for him to spend more time with me while we had childcare and potential work hours in front of us.

“Sure” I said, receiving the gift of his presence, “I want a turkey sandwich with blue cheese on it and a coke” I said defiantly.

That night I took iron and vitamin C to prepare for the large amount of blood loss, drank a glass of wine and made the brownies I’d been craving for a week, easing back into a life less calculated.

“How is that diet for miscarriage prep?” I texted one of my dearest dietician friends my late night snack.

She was reassuring and offered to be with me in the morning, and bring me food. Another dear friend brought dinner, others offered help and sent kind messages of their love and prayers. I felt God’s presence in their support and was grateful I had shared our joy, had weeks of time to revel and celebrate together, so that when this loss came I was not a hollow bucket trying futilely to explain the importance of a scene a you had to have been there for.

I am alone in this. No one else can do this for me, or with me, or take away the pain in my body, deep in my heart.

I stand outside this woman’s work,
This woman’s world.
Ooh, it’s hard on the man,
Now his part is over.
Now starts the craft of the father.

But I am loved in this. I am given grace and peace and comfort and the sustenance I need to endure this.

I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.

I managed to get up and outside in the early evening when the sun was still glowing bright in our new cul-de-sac and play with my children. I shot a few baskets with the big kids who are excitedly taking to this new game their papa has been waiting years to have the right space to teach them. I pushed my baby girl on her trike and the scooter she isn’t nearly big or coordinated enough for but expresses such joy in being given a ride. We were all smiling and laughing and my body was bleeding and cramping but it felt good to be out and in the sun and in this moment. A new neighbor gave me a big embracing hug that felt like she’d been my dear friend for years. Another came out with her daughter, the same age as my baby, and the babies smiled and hugged their same size new friend. I looked around me as if my life was standing still and praised God I’d been given so much to be grateful for.

This is my body, broken for you…
This is my blood, poured out.

And I remember what He has done for me.


Presence of Place

Coinciding with the last day in our home, after long days of packing and moving and unpacking and still surrounded by so much work, we took relief in attending a Good Friday service at our home church. It was a beautiful reprieve to be able to sit, quiet, contemplative in the dark and remember the sacrifices of my savior that gives me a life I don’t deserve. To be able to worship, fully, as if alone, and to let floodgates of tears break free, as I used to most every time I worshiped in this place, as I needed to and could, it had been so long.

The places we live and breath and go to matter, they contain the life we live and give structure to it. But I know, as with everything else on this earth, they are temporal, and not the true things of this life. We attended this place, this new sanctuary and the old just across the street, for 7 years, a significant little lifetime. Now that my husband pastors the satellite campus, we no longer come here to worship and I miss it, the way I will miss our home, also a place of knowing God, of worship and nurturance, of so many memories of the rich life we had here. I carry in my belly what we believe will be the last of our children, our 5th, (unless twins) and I am remembering our pregnant beginnings here when parenthood would be brand new. It was my first of many winter pregnancies and I remember sitting in the old chapel, where we used to have church when the numbers were smaller, it was cozy and glowing with candlelight and I was immersed in identifying with Mary’s hope and awe for a child who would change the world. We were new to Seattle, pregnant for the second time, the first to last, and expectant of all the wonder and love that lay ahead. We’ve had 4 children since while in this building, devoted 3 to the Lord in dedication services we take as seriously as our wedding vows, grieved and mourned and wailed the loss of one whose middle name was Samuel, same as the son of Hannah who’s story is shared with each dedication – he was going to change the world too, in leaving us he did.

Tonight we sat hand in hand tucked in the back of the sanctuary through the whole service, something I no longer get to do with my husband and more than simple memory scenes came over me, as they have in our home these past few days, but the cumulative emotions of everything we experienced here was overwhelming to me. Again, so good to sit in the dark, to cry at a somber service that allows me to remember my savior’s death, see scenes of my son’s death, of births, of faces I love and have loved me, remember faces that are gone and realize so much here has changed too. I feel the hope that Easter is coming. It will be the first morning in our new home. It will be new life for us.

So much is unknown, it is hard to remember sometimes that I know of the resurrection, that this death is not final. I know the pain of change, that the days between Good Friday and Easter are short lived, and that He is present beside me in all of it. But I want to hold on to everything I hold dear, I want change to happen, but I want things to stay the same too. And when I repeat that it is “everything I hold dear” that matters, I know full well that everything I hold dear comes with me. In these days of tears, of remembering so much that was so good, and so hard which is meaningful too, I have been so aware of the fullness of life I have with the people who live and are welcomed in these walls. In the carpool or a park or mundane places like Costco, I have been sweetly reminded that it is my little (some would say big) family that gave any life at all to the walls and the rooms and the yard of our house, and it happens everywhere we go together. Similarly, as we have been intentional about having last gatherings with dear friends to say our goodbyes, we’ve exchanged mutual reassurances that the relationships will not go, even as we do.

He will come too, He is already there. When I am not always sure the why or the what of the path we seek to faithfully follow, I take comfort in knowing He is with me, and that His life gives everything that matters to my life.